January 9th, 2010

tony stark

rich fantasy lives

I found this story kind of depressing: folks on AVATAR forums talking about how much they wish they could wake up on Pandora. Some of them talk about trying to dream about it, or have even more drastic thoughts. The site in question is making fun of the people, of course, but I can't laugh about it much; it's a curious aspect of modern society that so many people project upon contemporary fantasy worlds the kind of world-to-come aspirations and love and hope that people of previous centuries ascribed solely to heaven. (Or, in the case of my own folks, the World-to-Come, which I think is the nerdiest heaven ever: the Jewish World-to-Come is pretty much *exactly* like this world, except 1) all of the dead are resurrected and 2) everybody agrees that the Jews are right. YES, OUR IDEA OF HEAVEN IS A PLACE WHERE WE GET TO WIN A FRIGGING ARGUMENT.) I suspect that this is because while heaven is a place of ultimate closeness to God and all that sort of thing, contemporary fantasy worlds are simply Places Where Cool Shit Happens, which probably has more appeal for the viewer who is not particularly interested in communion with the Deity.

Wishing you could inhabit a fantasy world is a fannish staple, but I'm uncomfortable and even alarmed by the cited juxtaposition of the love of AVATAR's Pandora with vehement hatred of one's own society -- misery is hard enough to live with, but fetishized, institutionalized cultural self-hatred of this sort makes me profoundly uncomfortable. (Guys? Do you realize they don't have the frigging INTERNET on Pandora? Well, okay, they do have an equivalent, but getting to plug into it is evidently a Big Deal For Special People and you don't get to just do it any time you feel like it for hours at a time. As Popular Mechanics pointed out in their review, James Cameron would be bored out of his goddamn skull on Pandora, fer Chrissakes. It's like -- okay, this is a digression, but recently NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ran an article on the Hadza, who are hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. The NG reporter lived with the Hadza for a couple of weeks, even going on a baboon hunt. Y'know who I felt for, reading the article? One of the Hadza, a guy named Maduru. He's a misfit in a group of maybe thirty people. When they pass out the snakebite remedy, he doesn't get any, which upsets Maduru greatly, as it goddamn well should, because his community is saying that it *literally* doesn't care whether he lives or dies. Anybody who has *ever* been on the shit end of the list knows exactly how Maduru feels. I spent a good chunk of my childhood being Maduru. I know people who are Maduru to this day. Except they live in a fucking awesome society that gives them the Internet and discussion boards and World of Warcraft, so even if they wake up every day being Maduru they get a chance to escape into a place where they're not Maduru any more. Except the *real* Maduru, of course. He lives in a hunter-gatherer society, so he doesn't get to do that; he just gets to wake up and get shit on every day. This is why, when the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article notes that the eminent Jared Diamond has called agriculture the greatest mistake in the history of humanity, my immediate and visceral response is, "FUCK JARED DIAMOND IN HIS MOTHERFUCKING EAR.")

Anyway. That all aside, it inspires me to ask: what fannish worlds have *you* wished like hell you could live in?

My guess is that for most fans of a certain age, STAR TREK is the unquestioned champion in the "I'm-closing-my-eyes-now-God-so-oh-please-let-me-wake-up-there" sweepstakes. Because it *was,* explicitly, so utopian. When I was a kid, I wished I could live in the STAR WARS universe; looking at it from the outside as a grown-up, I wouldn't live there if you paid me. The Vorkosiverse is like that for me, too. Love to read about it. Don't wanna live there.

For my part, I occasionally get a little bummed when I think about the fact that I will never ever get to have a TARDIS. I think part of this is because it solves all of my issues with moving. You can fit *all of your stuff in it.* You *never have to move again.* You can park it *anywhere, anytime.* It has *indoor plumbing.* You never have to pay rent or property taxes. If you go by the classic series, it has a food concentrate dispenser, so you don't even need to go to the store if you run out of stuff and get hungry. Seriously, if the TARDIS has an internet connection, which the modern version evidently does, I am fucking sold. I will go to the future and bring back some cures for friends with serious medical issues, and then I'll rescue H. Beam Piper, Robert E. Howard, Stan Rogers, and the Elephant Man, and then I'll go on jaunts of sightseeing that include lengthy intervals of me being parked on a beach on the Devonian because I never have to bother or be bothered by anybody ever again. That is my idea of heaven, right there.